How Much Does It
Cost To Go Cruising?
Can you afford to go cruising? Have you spent long hours trying to create a cruising budget,
but just don’t know where to begin?
Do you just give up sometimes and put it off until later? If you answered yes to any of these questions, welcome to the
club! Janet and I spent years
trying to understand just what it would cost for us to go cruising aboard
there wasn’t, and still isn’t, a lot of information on the costs of
cruising. While the information in this article may not create your
personal budget, perhaps knowing more about our spending will help you
better understand where your money will go.
First, the disclaimer - The amount you spend on cruising is entirely up to
you, your cruising style, and the money you have available.
We’ve seen cruisers who don’t have two cents between them, but
were wonderfully happy cruising. We’ve also seen equally happy boaters with huge mega-yachts
and a full staff. Most
like us, fall somewhere in the middle.
Since I try to only talk about things I know first-hand,
that’s where I’ll focus.
with some basic assumptions. I’ll
assume you already have a boat that you’ve lovingly stuffed with all the
things you’ll want when you go cruising (radar, radios, dinghy,
microwave, etc.). I’ll also
assume that you’ve paid off the boat or that you can calculate the
mortgage costs separately. I
will ignore any costs associated with keeping a house once you go
cruising. With those
assumptions out of the way, let’s begin.
news is that you’ll leave several categories of bills behind with no
need for them on the boat. You’ll no longer pay for monthly electricity, water, trash
pick-up, homeowners’ dues, or other costs associated with land-based
living. Some people forget
that and keep thinking they’ll need more money to cruise than to live on
land – Not so. You’ll
also reduce your need for work-related expenses.
No more dry-cleaning, gas for the car, lunches at work, or gifts
for the boss. You just became
Our expenses over the last two years fall into the following categories
– Provisions, fuel, communications, marinas/moorings, boat maintenance,
insurance and recreation or discretionary spending.
Our expenses are based upon our choices to anchor whenever
possible, eat in more than we eat out, and sail more than we motor.
Those choices have allowed us more money for recreation and
discretionary spending. Not included in our
costs is the money spent on doctor or dental visits. At this time
we're healthy and have required nothing more than the yearly
check-up. In the big picture, those costs are insignificant since
our insurance covers them with a small co-pay. You may need to
factor in those costs for your cruising. Our spending, by category, is outlined
This category includes food, paper products,
personal hygiene, and small incidentals.
Anything you can get from a large grocery store fits here.
Our monthly average for provisions has been between $350-$450,
after an initial shopping trip and bringing all our leftover foods from
the home we sold. The first
shopping trip was probably close to $1000 as we not only bought what we
needed immediately, but also stocked up with several ‘spares’ like
extra shampoo, deodorants, toothbrushes, dishwashing and laundry
detergents, etc. We never
know when we’ll run out of an item like that, so having the spares
aboard prevents us from locating a store at the most inopportune times.
We buy most of our food in bulk from places like Sam’s Club.
We divide the larger packages of meats and cheeses into smaller
packages that we vacuum seal and freeze.
Janet has a 3’ x 3’ cube-shaped space filled with our dry goods
like pasta and rice. We have
extras of everything that we replace during monthly provisioning trips.
Most often, our shopping trips are for fresh, local produce.
Seafood is something we seldom buy, because we have been fortunate
in our abilities to catch fresh fish during our deeper offshore sails. I’d
guess that we have fresh fish for 15% of our dinners.
Not included in our monthly provisioning is the cost of dog food for Max
& Bailey. For anyone
interested, we budget forty pounds of dry dog food per month.
We feed them a compressed, dry food with little filler, so that
forty pounds goes a long way. They each get 3 cups per day, supplemented by the occasional
table scrap. Our expenses for
the dogs, including medicines and supplements, run about $100.
Our fuel costs vary each month with cruising
location, but generally run around $100.
That $100 provides diesel for our primary engine and generator, as
well as gasoline for our 15hp dinghy outboard.
As I mentioned above, we often sail vs. motoring, which keeps our
fuel costs down. We have a
wind generator and solar panel to provide most of our battery charging
needs, so the generator is only used about 200 hours per year – often to
power the water heater or cool the boat down with air-conditioning.
If you choose to travel via the ICW or don’t have alternative
charging systems, your fuel costs could easily double from ours.
Communications is an area where personal choice
will rule your budget. This
category includes mail, email, telephone, and our web page costs. Our budget for communications is higher than the majority for
several reasons. Predominantly,
it’s because we choose to be in touch with and accessible to our
families, via email. We use
our cellular phone and a cellular modem when in the US and forward our
mail to a Pocketmail device in other locations.
The cell phone service runs us $110 per month in the US.
We lower our package minutes when we’re outside the US and pay
around $30 to keep our phone active.
But we add the $15 per month for Pocketmail and approximately $100
per month in calling cards outside the US.
We check email once or twice a day in the US and four to five times
a week when outside the US.
Our regular mail is received, sorted, and forwarded every six weeks by
Janet’s mother. If you don’t
have a friend or family member to trust that task to, budget some money
for a mail service. Our
postage costs average $100 per year.
Another expense we have for communications is our web page costs.
We spend $52 per month to keep the web page running.
That brings our total average for communications to somewhere near
$200 per month. That is much higher than most cruisers we know.
This is the category that gets most first year
cruisers. When cruising is
new, boaters tend to anchor out less and explore from marinas more.
We were no different. However,
with marinas costing an average of $50-80 per night, we had to break that
habit very quickly. We now
spend about 90% of our time swinging on our own anchor.
Charbonneau has all the comforts of home, we can provide our own
utilities, and use the dinghy as our car to visit land-based attractions.
We really didn’t have any reason to stay in the marinas except
for the comfort of knowing we were tied to something stationary.
Our marina stays now are either laundry days when the marina has
the only facilities or tie-ups for us to travel somewhere by car
(holidays, etc.). Our average
yearly marina/mooring costs are around $1500.
While boat maintenance doesn’t take the largest
amount of our budget, it does take the most time.
Spending the time on preventative maintenance items will lower your
overall expenditure. We try
to dedicate an hour a day to ‘boat tasks’.
That includes oil changes, inspecting systems, rebuilding heads or
pumps, polishing, or performing the periodic tasks recommended by
equipment manufacturers. We
haul the boat at least once every 18 months for new bottom paint and to
inspect the prop and cutlass bearing.
We generally clean the bottom of the boat ourselves, with the
occasional diver being hired where visibility would be difficult while
snorkeling. So far, our boat
maintenance costs are averaging $2000-$3000 per year including a haul and
bottom paint job every 18 months.
We have four types of insurance that we maintain;
boat, car, renters, and a liability umbrella policy.
We choose to insure our boat for the full value, with a larger
deductible to keep the costs down. That
coverage runs us about $200 per month.
Several cruisers choose to not insure at all, but we can’t afford
to absorb the potential loss of our boat (home).
Our medical insurance provides for major-medical claims, co-pay for
doctor visits and pharmaceuticals, with a $2500 yearly deductible –
monthly cost $150 for the two of us.
We also have a car that we kept full coverage on, a renter’s
policy for some things in storage, and a large liability umbrella policy
to cover any unexpected accidents or claims against us.
Our total insurance costs per month are near $400.
Your own costs will vary with the size of your boat, type of
medical insurance, and any additional policies you continue to carry.
If you’re just leaving the work force and are planning to use COBRA
insurance, be prepared to pay hefty fees. We kept COBRA for several months after leaving our jobs and
it cost us triple our current rates.
Our advice is to shop around for health insurance before you
We also recommend that you keep yourselves insured as a driver on
someone's insurance. If you drop your car insurance, you could find
yourself paying rates as a new driver when you return. Check with
and Discretionary Spending
Finally, my favorite budget category!
We budget $400 per month for the fun things in our life. It’s never as
much as we’d like, but it does provide for all our
needs. We eat out 4-8 times
per month, mostly lunches while sightseeing.
We enjoy the occasional car rental to see further than our legs can
carry us and seldom pass up a good ice-cream cone on a hot day.
We like movies and spend some of this category’s allowance on
DVDs for our movie collection. We
really haven’t encountered too many things that we couldn’t squeeze
out of a months budget, but we’re not eating at 5-star restaurants every
night either. We live a
middle-class life aboard Charbonneau with a few restrictions as a trade
for the beauty of living on the water. Fair trade, if you asked me.
Cruising will cost whatever you’re willing to
give to it. Our total monthly
average is around $2000 per month. Some
months it’s higher, some a little lower.
We could cruise for much less than that by giving up items like our
web page, reducing our communications with family/friends, or changing our
insurance policies.. In reality
though, we see most boats living comfortably on budgets ranging from
$18-$30K per year. The lower
end eats out less and rarely stays in a marina.
The upper end enjoys many meals ashore and loves to be ‘plugged
in’ to the local marinas. Your
personal choices will decide where you fit on the scale.
On the other
hand, don’t make the mistake we see with so many boaters still tied to
the dock. They have a boat
that would take them cruising, but instead they are looking for that ‘perfect
cruising boat’ with all the toys and whistles.
You can cruise on just about any boat depending on your
destinations. Our advice is
to take the boat you have and go cruising as soon as you can.
You could spend your whole life (and savings) getting your boat
ready to go. Trust me, you’ll
have plenty of time to work on your boat while cruising.
And now that you know what it costs, what are you waiting
We’ll see you
on the water.